The Rise of Disappearing Apps

By: Hilary Smith – Guest Blogger for Enough is Enough

Forget about Facebook and Twitter, there’s a new social media trend consuming teens’ time everywhere. What is it? Disappearing apps, such as Burn Note, have quickly risen in popularity over the last few years, and parents should definitely be on high alert.

What are disappearing apps?

On disappearing apps, users can send text messages, photos or videos that self-destruct within a certain timeframe. These apps are marketed to teens and adults as a way to leave no digital footprint, since all of the messages are destroyed without leaving a record behind. Besides Burn Note, some of the most popular disappearing apps include Snapchat, Cyberdust and Slingshot.

Source: TeenSafe

How do these apps work? On Burn Note, for example, a user can send a text message to someone else and set a time limit on how long the receiver has to read the message. With this app, you can send anyone a Burn Note as long as you have his or her contact information. The receiver does not need to already have a Burn Note account created. Once receivers access the message, it will be shown to them line by line, giving them enough time to read it before vanishing forever.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.21.17 PM

How do teens use disappearing apps?

Burn Note was originally created to keep business information confidential between co-workers, however that is no longer its primary use. Some teens use disappearing apps such as Burn Note and Snapchat to hide behavior from their parents. In fact, over 70% of teens admit to attempting to hide their online behavior, and these disappearing apps give them the perfect tool to make it happen.

Teens are drawn to Burn Note because it makes them feel safer and more comfortable to say things that they normally wouldn’t on other platforms. Their logic is if the message disappears, there’s no evidence that it ever exists, so they can get away with a lot more. These disappearing apps have become a place where teens go to cyberbully others and engage in inappropriate sexting.

Many teens soon find out the hard way that even though apps such as Burn Note are marketed as a private way to communicate, nothing is ever really private in digital communication. So-called private messages, photos and videos can easily be saved using a screen shot on the receiver’s phone. This means that inappropriate photos that were meant to be for one person’s eyes only can be sent to others with just a few taps of the smartphone. Threatening messages that were meant to tease or intimidate a classmate could lead to serious consequences in school or even with authorities. Unfortunately, by the time many teens learn this lesson, it is too late to avoid the serious consequences of their actions.

Should parents be concerned?

Parents should always actively be involved in their children’s lives—both online and off. If you notice that teens are using disappearing apps such as Burn Note, Snapchat, Cyberdust or Slingshot, you should discuss it with your teens as soon as possible. Explain to them that these apps are not safe places where users can act in whatever manner they please, and that there are serious consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Try to find relevant examples in the news to show your kids how others have abused the privilege of using these disappearing apps.

Remember, keeping kids safe online is a 24/7 job, and not one that should be taken lightly by parents!

About the author:  Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t peek her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7. 

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